Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without footstraps or bindings.
Kitesurfing is a style of kiteboarding specific to wave riding, which uses standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose.
There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and kitesurfing in the waves. In 2012, the number of kitesurfers was estimated by the ISAF and IKA at 1.5 million persons worldwide (pending review). The global market for kite gear sales is worth US $250 million.
In the 1800s, George Pocock used kites of increased size to propel carts on land and ships on the water, using a four-line control system-the same system in common use today. Both carts and boats were able to turn and sail upwind. The kites could be flown for sustained periods. The intention was to establish kitepower as an alternative to horsepower, partly to avoid the hated "horse tax" that was levied at that time. In 1903, aviation pioneer Samuel Cody developed "man-lifting kites" and succeeded in crossing the English Channel in a small collapsible canvas boat powered by a kite
In the late 1970s, the development of Kevlar then Spectra flying lines and more controllable kites with improved efficiency contributed to practical kite traction. In 1978, Ian Day's "FlexiFoil" kite-powered Tornado catamaran exceeded 40 km/h.
In October 1977 Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise (Netherlands) received the first patent for KiteSurfing. The patent covers, specifically, a water sport using a floating board of a surf board type where a pilot standing up on it is pulled by a wind catching device of a parachute type tied to his harness on a trapeze type belt. Although this patent did not result in any commercial interest, Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise could be considered as the originator of KiteSurfing.
Through the 1980s, there were occasionally successful attempts to combine kites with canoes, ice skates, snow skis, water skis and roller skates.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Dieter Strasilla from Germany developed parachute-skiing and later perfected a kiteskiing system using self made paragliders and a ball-socket swivel allowing the pilot to sail upwind and uphill but also to take off into the air at will. Strasilla and his Swiss friend Andrea Kuhn used this invention also in combination with surfboards and snowboards, grasskies and selfmade buggies. One of his patents describes in 1979 the first use of an inflatable kite design for kitesurfing.
Two brothers, Bruno Legaignoux and Dominique Legaignoux, from the Atlantic coast of France, developed kites for kitesurfing in the late 1970s and early 1980s and patented an inflatable kite design in November 1984, a design that has been used by companies to develop their own products.
In 1990, practical kite buggying was pioneered by Peter Lynn at Argyle Park in Ashburton, New Zealand. Lynn coupled a three-wheeled buggy with a forerunner of the modern parafoil kite. Kite buggying proved to be very popular worldwide, with over 14,000 buggies sold up to 1999.
The development of modern-day kitesurfing by the Roeselers in the USA and the Legaignoux in France carried on in parallel to buggying. Bill Roeseler, a Boeing aerodynamicist, and his son Cory Roeseler patented the "KiteSki" system which consisted of water skis powered by a two line delta style kite controlled via a bar mounted combined winch/brake. The KiteSki was commercially available in 1994. The kite had a rudimentary water launch capability and could go upwind. In 1995, Cory Roeseler visited Peter Lynn at New Zealand's Lake Clearwater in the Ashburton Alpine Lakes area, demonstrating speed, balance and upwind angle on his 'ski'. In the late 1990s, Cory's ski evolved to a single board similar to a surfboard.
In 1996, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularising kitesurfing off the Hawaiian coast of Maui while in Florida Raphaël Baruch changed the name of the sport from flysurfing to kitesurfing.
In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough "Wipika" kite design which had a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips, both of which greatly assisted water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux has continued to improve kite designs, including developing the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
In 1997, specialized kite boards were developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness. By the end of 1998 kitesurfing had become an extreme sport, distributed and taught through a handful group of shops and schools worldwide. The first competition was held on Maui in September 1998 and won by Flash Austin.
Starting in 1999, kitesurfing became a mainstream sport with the entry of key windsurfing manufacturers namely Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard. From 2001 onwards, twin-tip bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water riders, with directional boards still in use for surf conditions.
In May 2012, the course racing style of kitesurfing was announced as a sport for the 2016 Rio Olympics, replacing windsurfing. However, after a vote by the General Assembly of ISAF in November 2012 (in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland) the RSX windsurfer was reinstated for both Men and Women this was an unprecedented decision when the constituent members of ISAF overthrew a decision made by the ISAF Council Kitesurfing remains therefore a non-Olympic sport until 2020 at the earliest. The ISAF mid-year meeting of May 2013 proposed seeking an eleventh medal to include kitesurfing in 2020 at the same time there was a commitment made to retain the existing other 10 classes as they are for 2020 and even 2024 including the RSX windsurfer for men and women.
Kitesurfing was named as an official event at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
Nick Jacobsen achieved the world record for the highest kite jump measured by WOO Sports on February 19, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, during a session with 40-knot winds. Jacobsen's jump reached 28.6 meters high, with an airtime of 8.5 seconds.
French kitesurfer Sébastien Cattelan became the first sailor to break the 50 knots barrier by reaching 50.26 knots on 3 October 2008 at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. On 4 October, Alex Caizergues (also of France) broke this record with a 50.57 knots run. Similar speeds are reached by windsurfers in the same location by Anders Bringdal and Antoine Albeau, respectively 50.46 and 50.59 knots. These speeds are verified, but are still subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. Earlier in the event, on 19 September, American Rob Douglas reached 49.84 knots (92.30 km/h), becoming the first kitesurfer to establish an outright world record in speed sailing. Previously the record was held only by sailboats or windsurfers. Douglas also became the world's third over-50 knots sailor, when on 8 September he made a 50.54 knots (93.60 km/h) run.
On 14 November 2009, Alex Caizergues completed another run of 50.98 knots in Namibia.
October 2010, Rob Douglas became the outright record holder for the short distance 500 meters with 55.65 knots. Sébastien Cattelan became the record holder of France and Europe with 55.49 and was the first rider to reach 55 knots.
|2006-05-13||225 km (121 nmi)||Kirsty Jones, crossing solo from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarfaya, Morocco, in about nine hours||"Kirsty Jones Kiteboards from Lanzarote to Morocco". Windsurfing & kitesurfing travel.|
|2007-07-24||207 km (112 nmi)||Raphaël Salles, Marc Blanc and Sylvain Maurain between Saint-Tropez and Calvi, Haute-Corse in 5h30 at 20 knots, beating Manu Bertin's previous record of 6h 30m for the same journey.||"Long Distance between Saint Tropez and Calvi: 207 km in 5 h 30". M8 distribution Australia.|
|2008-10-12||419.9 km (226.7 nmi)||Eric Gramond crossing from Fortaleza to Parnaíba in Brazil during 24 hours||Eric Gramond (26 October 2008). "24h with kitesurf".|
|2010-03-22||240 km (130 nmi)||Natalie Clarke crossing Bass Strait from Stanley, Tasmania to Venus Bay, Victoria in Australia in 9h30||"Natalie Clarke kite crosses the Bass Strait in record time". SurferToday.com. 24 March 2010.|
|2010-05-10||369.71 km (199.63 nmi)||Phillip Midler (USA) from South Padre Island, Texas to Matagorda, Texas||"American Phil Midler Breaks Kiteboarding Long Distance World Record". The Kiteboarder. 13 May 2010.|
|2013-07-19||444 km (240 nmi)||Bruno Sroka between Aber Wrac'h, France and Crosshaven, Ireland||"Bruno Sroka completes kite cross between France and Ireland". SurferToday.com. 19 July 2013.|
|2013-09-18||569.5 km (307.5 nmi)||Francisco Lufinha from Porto to Lagos, Portugal||"Francisco Lufinha sets world record for the longest kitesurfing journey". SurferToday.com. 18 September 2013.|
|2015-07-07||874 km (472 nmi)||Francisco Lufinha from Lisboa to Madeira||"Kiteboarder Francisco Lufinha sails for 874 kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean". SurferToday.com. 7 July 2015.|
Louis Tapper completed the longest recorded kite journey, completing 2000 km between Salvador and Sao Luis, Brazil. The journey was completed between July/August 2010 and took over 24 days of kitesurfing. This trip is also the longest solo journey, completed without support crew, using one kite and a 35-litre backpack .
The previous longest recorded kite journey was by Eric Gramond who completed a 13-day trip of 1450 km along the coast of Brazil.
Constantin Bisanz, a 41-year-old Austrian, crossed a 50-mile stretch of the Bering Strait embarking from Wales, Alaska on August 12th, 2011 at 4:00 am, and arriving in eastern most Russia two hours later, after which he returned by boat to Alaska. It occurred after 2 previously failed attempts, the first of which was on July 28th, 2011, in which an incident occurred where he found himself floating in 36 °F water with no board, kite or GPS unit for 1 hour before being rescued. On his second attempt on August 2nd, he and two friends sailed half the distance before turning around due to poor wind conditions.
A team of six kitesurfers, Filippo van Hellenberg Hubar, Eric Pequeno, Max Blom, Camilla Ringvold, Ike Frans, and Dennis Gijsbers crossed the Atlantic ocean, from the Canary islands to the Turks and Caicos Islands a distance of about 3,500 miles (5,600 km), from 20 November 2013, to 17 December 2013. Each of the six spent four hours each day surfing, broken into two sessions of two hours each, one during the day, and the other during the night.
The International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) is an International Class Association of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Its responsibility, amongst others, is to manage the global administration of the sport and combining world events into one united ranking. A Executive Committee is on a regular basis re-appointed by the class AGM. The duties and responsibilities of the Executive Committee are: to take care of the day-to-day business of the association. To consider and coordinate submissions from the sub-committees. The Executive Committee elected amongst themselves: - Chairman: Richard Gowers (GBR) - Vice-chairman: Bruno De Wannemaeker (BEL) - Executive Secretary: Markus Schwendtner (GER) - Board members: Mirco Babini (ITA), Olivier Mouragues (FRA), Adam Szymanski (POL) and John Gomes (USA).
There are also national and regional kitesurfing associations in many countries.
Several different kitesurfing styles are evolving, some of which cross over.
|Freeride||Freeride is anything that you want it to be and the most popular kitesurfing style. Most boards sold today are designed for freeride. It's about having fun and learning new techniques. Twintip boards and kites with good relaunch and a wide wind range are commonly used.|
|Freestyle||The kite and board are used to get big air (jumps) so that various tricks can be done while airborne. This style also used for competitive events and is free-format and "go anywhere". Smaller twintip boards and kites with good boost and hangtime are used.|
|Wave-riding||Wave riding (kitesurfing) in waves is a style that combines kiteboarding with surfing. Locations with a wave break are required. Most kitesurfers use a directional board (either with or without foot straps) that has enough flotation and sufficient turning characteristics to surf the wave. Many kiters use a surfboard that can also be used for regular surfing (with the foot straps removed). The kitesurfer follows the kite when riding the wave, so the pull of the kite is reduced. This style is popular with surfers since it resembles tow-in surfing. Some riders ride waves unhooked, and without foot straps. Foot straps dictate the kitesurfer's foot position and how weight and pressure is applied to the board. Surfers (other than tow-in surfers) do not wear straps and are therefore free to move their feet and position their weight over a greater area of the board to match what is needed to flow with the wave. Kitesurfing using a board without foot straps is referred to as "riding strapless". This allows the kitesurfer's feet to move around the board for optimal performance. Kitesurfers using foot straps often use the power of the kite to position themselves on a wave and to control their board. That is, they rely on the kite for propulsion rather than the power of the wave to surf.||Surfing, tow-in surfing|
|Wakestyle||Tricks and aerials, using a wake-style board with bindings. May also include tricks and jumps involving ramps. Crossover from wakeboarding. Flat water is perfect for this style, and the use of big twintip boards with high rocker and wake booties is common. This style is commonly practiced by younger riders.||Wakeboarding|
|Jumping or Airstyle||Jumping, arguably a subset of Freeride, consists of jumping high to optionally perform tricks, sometimes also using kiteloops to get extra hang-time. Often shorter lines and smaller kites are used in stronger wind. C-kites and twintip boards are commonly used. An extension of this style is Big Air as pioneered by Ruben Lenten where riders go out in gale force conditions and perform high risk moves like kiteloops or more exactly megaloops||-|
|Wakeskate||Wakeskaters use a strapless twintip board, similar to skateboard. Flat water and other conditions similar to Wakestyle.||Skateboarding|
|Course racing||These are racing events - like a yacht race along a course, that involve both speed and tactics. Special purpose directional race boards with long fins are used. Some raceboards resemble windsurfing boards. Foilboards are also now used. The goal is to outperform other kiters and come first in the race.||Windsurfing|
|Speed racing||Speed racing is a style practiced at either formal race events or informally, usually with GPS units. Special purpose directional speed boards, or raceboards with long fins are used. The goal is travel at the maximum possible speed over 500 meters.|
|Park Riding||Park riding is very similar to wakestyle. Riders use wakeboarding obstacles to perform tricks on them. Difficulty, execution and style|
Kiteboarding can pose hazards to surfers, beachgoers, bystanders and others on the water. Many problems and dangers that may be encountered while learning kiting can be avoided or minimized by taking professional instruction through lesson centers. Kitesurfing schools provide courses and lessons to teach skills including kite launching, flying, landing, usage of the bar, lines and safety devices.
A beginner can turn by stopping or sinking backwards into the water, and then turning the kite in the opposite direction and starting again. A 'heel turn jibe' is a quicker, and more skillful turn that is executed by slowing down, flattening the board, then reversing the board flat on the water by bringing the rear foot around downwind to eventually become the new leading foot. The direction of the kite is then reversed, which swings the surfer's path in a semi circle, centered on the kite. As the turn ends, the kite is flown over to be in front of the surfer again.
A poorly executed turn will "fly" the surfer, and is often followed by a tumble if the surfer can't put the board down at the right angle.
A careless turn in high winds can easily swing the rider into the air and result in an uncontrolled impact.
Controlled flying is possible and is one of the biggest attractions of the sport. Before jumping, the surfer builds up tension in the lines by strongly edging the board. Then the kite is flown quickly to an overhead position, sometimes just as the surfer goes over a wave. As the kite begins to lift, the board edge is then 'released' and the rider becomes airborne. The kite is then piloted from overhead to the direction of travel. A large variety of maneuvers and tricks can be performed while jumping.
Jumping can be very risky, riders must keep a clear buffer zone downwind when attempting to jump.
Board grabs are tricks performed while a rider is jumping or has gained air from popping by grabbing the board in a number of positions with either hand. Each grab has a different name dependent on which part of the board is grabbed and with which hand it is grabbed by. Rear hand grabs are known as Crail, Indy, Nuke, Tindy, Tail, Tailfish, and Stalefish; while front hand grabs are known as Slob, Mute, Seatbelt, Melan, Method, and Nose. Names generally originate from other board sports like skateboarding and snowboarding.
A number of grabs can also be combined into one trick. A rider may perform a tail grab going to indy by moving the rear hand from the back of the board to the middle of the toe side edge.
Kitesurfers change kite size and/or line length depending on wind strength-stronger winds call for a smaller kite to prevent overpower situations. Kitesurfers will determine the wind strength using either an anemometer or, more typically, visual clues as shown in the Beaufort scale.
All modern kites dedicated to kitesurfing provide a "depower" option to reduce the power in the kite. By using depower, the kite's angle of attack to the wind is reduced, thereby catching less wind in the kite and reducing the power or pull.
Wind speed, rider experience and weight, board size, kite design and riding style are all interdependent and affect the choice of kite.
An experienced rider generally carries a 'quiver' of different sized kites appropriate for the wind speed range. A typical kite quiver might include 8 m², 10 m² and 12 m² traditional "C-kites". Exact kite sizes will vary depending on rider weight and desired wind ranges.
Bow kites have a wider wind range than C-kites, so two kite sizes (such as 7 m² and 12 m²) could form an effective quiver for winds ranging from 10 to 30+ knots for a 75 kg (165 lb) rider.
Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding. Offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. Offshore winds are suitable in a lake or when a safety boat is available, however they are generally more gusty. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land, and are thus less favorable.
Any location with consistent, steady side-onshore winds (10 to 35+ knots), large open bodies of water and good launch areas is suitable for kitesurfing. Most kitesurfing takes place along ocean shores, usually off beaches, but it can also be practiced on large lakes and inlets and occasionally on rivers. Since kiteboarding relies heavily on favorable, consistent wind conditions, certain locations tend to become popular and sought out by kiteboarders.
A power kite is available in two major forms: leading edge inflatables and foil kites.
Leading edge inflatable kites, known also as inflatables, LEI kites, are typically made from ripstop polyester with an inflatable plastic bladder that spans the front edge of the kite with separate smaller bladders that are perpendicular to the main bladder to form the chord or foil of the kite. The inflated bladders give the kite its shape and also keep the kite floating once dropped in the water. LEIs are the most popular choice among kitesurfers thanks to their quicker and more direct response to the rider's inputs, easy relaunchability if crashed into the water and resilient nature. If an LEI kite hits the water or ground too hard or is subjected to substantial wave activity, bladders can burst or it can be torn apart.
In 2005, Bow kites (also known as flat LEI kites) were developed with features including a concave trailing edge, a shallower arc in planform, and frequently a bridle along the leading edge. These features allow the kite's angle of attack to be altered more and thus adjust the amount of power being generated to a much greater degree than previous LEIs. These kites can be fully depowered, which is a significant safety feature. They can also cover a wider wind range than a comparable C-shaped kite. The ability to adjust the angle of attack also makes them easier to re-launch when lying front first on the water. Bow kites are popular with riders from beginner to advanced levels. Most LEI kite manufacturers developed a variation of the bow kite by 2006.
Early bow kites had some disadvantages compared to classic LEI kites:
In 2006, second generation flat LEI kites were developed which combine near total depower and easy, safe relaunch with higher performance, no performance penalties and reduced bar pressure. Called Hybrid or SLE kites (Supported Leading Edge), these kites are suitable for both beginners and experts.
In 2008, Naish introduced another kite design, with their "Sigma Series" of kites. These kites are a SLE design and feature a unique "bird in flight" shape with the center of the kite swept back to put much of the sail area behind the tow point, which Naish claims has multiple benefits.
In 2009, the performance revolution shows no sign of slowing. Bridled designs feel more like C kites, and five-line hybrids have better depower capability than ever before. There are more than thirty companies manufacturing Leading edge inflatable kites. The delta-kites are growing in popularity since 2008 with around 12 companies offering delta-kites since 2008/2009.
Between 2009 and 2013 kite technology has continued to grow. Kites have become lighter, more durable, much easier to launch and safer. Manufacturers have continued to add new safety features. This has resulted in a growing number of new riders, both younger and older. In 2013, there are at least 20 "major" kite manufacturers, each with multiple models available. Many of the manufacturers are on their third or fourth generation of kites.
Foil kites are also mostly fabric (ripstop nylon) with air pockets (air cells) to provide it with lift and a fixed bridle to maintain the kite's arc-shape, similar to a paraglider. Foil kites have the advantage of not needing to have bladders manually inflated, a process which, with an LEI, can take up to ten minutes. Foil kites are designed with either an open or closed cell configuration.
Open cell foils rely on a constant airflow against the inlet valves to stay inflated, but are generally impossible to relaunch if they hit the water, because they have no means of avoiding deflation, and quickly become soaked.
Closed cell foils are almost identical to open cell foils except they are equipped with inlet valves to hold air in the chambers, thus keeping the kite inflated (or, at least, making the deflation extremely slow) even once in the water. Water relaunches with closed cell foil kites are simpler; a steady tug on the power lines typically allows them to take off again. An example for a closed cell kite is the Arc Kite.
Kites come in sizes ranging from 0.7 square meters to 21 square meters, or even larger. In general, the larger the surface area, the more power the kite has. Kite power is also directly linked to speed, and smaller kites can be flown faster in stronger winds. The kite size-wind speed curve tapers off, so going to a larger kite to reach lower wind ranges becomes futile at a wind speed of around eight knots. Kites come in a variety of designs. Some kites are more rectangular in shape; others have more tapered ends; each design determines the kite's flying characteristics. 'Aspect ratio' is the ratio of span to length. High aspect ratios (ribbon-like kites) develop more power in lower wind speeds.
Seasoned kiteboarders will likely have three or more kite sizes which are needed to accommodate various wind levels, although bow kites may change this, as they present an enormous wind range; some advanced kiters use only one bow kite. Smaller kites are used by light riders, or in strong wind conditions; larger kites are used by heavier riders or in light wind conditions. Larger and smaller kiteboards have the same effect: with more available power a given rider can ride a smaller board. In general, however, most kiteboarders only need one board and one to three kites (7-12 sq m in size).
Power kites are powerful enough to pull the rider like a boat in wakeboarding and to lift their users to diving heights. But a kite could become uncontrolled and that situation can be very dangerous; especially within a difficult environment. A kite can get out of control after the rider falling or in a sudden wind gust, which can happen more frequently due to excessively strong winds from squalls or storms ("collard").
It is possible to be seriously injured after being lofted, dragged, carried off, blown downwind or dashed, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand, buildings, terrain or power lines or even by hitting the water surface with sufficient speed or height ("kitemare", a portmanteau of kite and nightmare). Adequate quality professional kiteboarding training, careful development of experience and consistent use of good judgement and safety gear should result in fewer problems in kiteboarding.
Weather forecasting and awareness is the principal factor to safe kiteboarding. Lack of weather awareness and understanding figures in many of these cases, but avoiding weather problems is possible Choice of inappropriate locations for kiteboarding where the wind passes over land creating wind shadow, rotor with pronounced gusts and lulls has also factored in many accidents. Paying attention to the weather and staying within the limits of the riders ability will provide the safest experience. Kitesurfing storm fronts can be particularly dangerous due to rapid changes in wind strength and direction.
Lack of a sufficient downwind buffer distance between the kiter and hard objects has contributed to accidents reducing the available distance and time for reaction. Jumping and being airborne at inappropriate places such as shallow water or near fixed or floating objects can be hazardous. Collisions with wind surfers, other kite boarders or water craft are hazards, particularly at busy locations.
Solo kiteboarding has been a frequent contributing cause to accidents; kiteboarders should try to kite with friends and keep an eye on one another. A kitesurfer can get farther from shore than an easy swim, which is the primary reason kitesurfing in directly offshore winds is discouraged. Marine hazards include sharks, jellyfish, sea otters, dolphins, and even crocodiles, depending on the location. Drowning has been a factor in severe accidents as well and may have been avoided in some cases through the use of an appropriate flotation aid or impact vest and development of acceptable swimming skills.
Some kite designs from late 2005 and onwards have included immediate and almost full depower integrated with the control bar and improved quick release mechanisms, both of which are making the sport much safer. However, lack of sufficient practice of emergency depowering the kite and going out in excessively strong or unstable weather can reduce the benefit of high depower kites. A safety knife is useful if lines become tangled and dangerous.
Accidents can generate serious injuries or even be deadly. 105 accidents were reported in the Kiteboarding Safety Information Database between 2000 and September 2003, with 14 fatalities. In South Africa between October 2003 and April 2004, 83% of search & rescue missions involving kitesurf were in offshore winds with the kite still attached to the harness, uncontrolled in strong winds or impossible to relaunch in weak winds. On 30 missions, there was no fatalities but five injuries : two had bone fractures after being hit by their boards, two others were suffering from critical hypothermia and exhaustion and the fifth was exhausted and lacerated.
Advances in hybrid and bow kite designs leads to a better ability to control the power that they provide and effective safety release systems. In 2003, fatality ratings for the U.S. stated that 6 to 12 kiteboarders died for 100'000 participants. This being higher than 4 to 5 in SCUBA diving (and much higher than the two Walkers), comparable to the 15 in Motor Vehicle Traffic, and 56 for Paragliders.
Some countries have laws about flying kites and being safe while flying that may also apply to kitesurfing.
Kite High Rule - A kiter who is upwind (closest to the wind) must keep their kite high to avoid their lines crossing those of downwind kiters. Similarly, the downwind kiter must keep their kite low to avoid their lines crossing upwind kites. This applies regardless of whether kiters are on the same, or opposing courses.
Clearance Rule - A kiter while jumping must have a clear safety zone of at least 50m downwind because they will move downwind during the jump. A rider must also have a clear safety zone of 30m upwind to jump as his lines could touch the kite or the lines of another rider kiteboarding close by (see Kite High rule). It's important to also consider potential hazards downwind and crosswind of the rider such as people, buildings, trees and other fixed obstacles.
Kiters are also considered as sailing vessels – so some standard sailing rules apply such as:
Starboard Rule When kiters approach from opposite directions the kiter who has the wind on the starboard (right side, right leg/arm leads in direction of travel) has right of way. The kiter who has the wind on the port side (left side, left leg/arm are leads in direction of travel) shall keep out of the way of the other. In simple terms, this means "keep right" with the kiter coming in the opposite direction passing on the left.
In sailing terms, a sailor or kiter with right of way is entitled to "insist" on exercising that right (warning opposing kiters) by shouting "starboard" very clearly and in good time.
Other boating rules such as no-go zones, distance from shore and swimmers also apply.
|Record Speed||55.65 (WR) knots||55.50 knots (Avg. 53.27 Windsurf WR, Antoine Albeau 2/11/15)|
|Upwind Capabilities||About 70° from wind direction on a twin-tip board, or 42° on the more efficient Hydrofoil board. The more a kite board tracks upwind, the more its leeward side must edge into the water to resist lateral drag. Upwind riders adopt a similar stance to kite fliers onshore, who slide their feet forward in the beach sand to brake the kite. The kite board's center line is way off the track line, dramatically reducing speed.||About 45° from wind direction (strong wind) depending on the skills of the rider. The sail board's center line runs virtually parallel to the track line, as most lateral forces are encountered by the tail fin and little edging is required. Because of this, upwind courses are fairly fast. Fastest speeds are achieved at broad reach.|
|Theory||The faster the kite moves the more force it develops. Standing still and actively steering the kite up and down (pumping) one can almost immediately create a lot of force. It is almost always possible to have the kite travel faster (much) than the board. The kiter/kite system is very dynamic. This is the reason kites have so much range (wind range).||The sail and board move at the same speed. With pumping one can sometimes push oneself onto a plane or maintain planing in marginal conditions. But sail and board travel at basically the same speed. This is the main reason why windsurfing requires a lot of equipment. The equipment must match the wind conditions much closer than kiting.|
|Physical Strain on Rider||The traction force of the kite is solely transferred to the rider via the harness loop attached to the harness hook when hooked in. When "hooked in" the rider uses muscle strength (thumb and index finger suffice) to steer the kite and control the kite power by pushing the bar in and out (depending on setup one might actually notice a slight effort). When "unhooked" the rider steers the kite using their arms with no depower, which can be very strenuous. Generally, kitesurfing is more of a light cardio training.||Windsurfing without a harness requires a lot of physical effort, especially in strong wind (a theoretical point, nobody does it...). With a harness, recovering from a fall or when maneuvering (jibing, tacking) the rider needs to detach the harness completely from the sail, which means that both traction and steering forces are to be countered solely by the rider's muscle (well here's the part involving skill, they usually use their weight/balance to get the job done...). For jibing maneuvers, muscle effort diminishes as the rider becomes more skilled in maintaining board speed in the jibe. Actually windsurfing in barely planing conditions is very physical due to pumping and locking in to a rigid stance keeping everything perfectly aligned. In race conditions it can get quite physical as well, planing "over the top" of wave sets keeping the board absolutely level and the sail well powered. In the strongest winds it can get physical as well due to the sheer force of the wind, but that is attributed to poor choice of equipment or lack of skill.|
|Fall Recovery||The kite is fairly easy to keep flying during a fall, with 'Hindenburgs' being rather exceptional. The rider can be pulled out of the water by the force of the moving kite. The kite power can be regulated by changing the angle of attack of the kite. In light winds the kite may fall into the water and stay there.||In light winds (non planing conditions), the rider needs to get on the board and pull the sail out of the water. However, in stronger winds (planing conditions (depending of equipment/weight/experience approx. from 9 knots on)), water starting is a better option. This means positioning the board-sail combination through aligning the sail into the right wind angle, allowing the wind to pull the body out of the water onto the board using the sail, and then easily hooking back in and stepping into foot straps. This maneuver actually requires slightly less than planing conditions.|
|Tacking and Jibing||Twin tip kiteboards (the majority of kiteboards) are designed to be bidirectional. If the rider wants to start the next tack only the kite's sailing direction must be reversed. The "stern" of the board now becomes the "bow", so the feet can be kept in the footstraps. Since the windward edge of the board doesn't change sides, the terms "jibing" or "tacking" are somewhat of a misnomer. Falling into the water is not a major problem, as even beginning riders can quickly and fairly effortlessly execute a water start using the kite to pull them out of the water. Nower days many kiters use directionals as well (all wave, racing as well as foils). These need to be jibed or tacked. This actually requires practice. Full planing race jibes are almost as difficult as in windsurfing.||The rider has the choice between tacking or jibing. In both cases the windward edge changes sides, so the rider will need to change footstraps. At high winds the only option to change tacks while maintaining speed is to carve jibe, which is a maneuver that requires many practise hours for it to be performed with a reasonably low risk of falling. .|
|Jumping||Kitesurfers can use their kite to "jump" (actually using it as a paraglider), without the need for a launch wave. Jumping is relatively easy but can be hazardous. Being launched (jumping) can also happen unintended, even to beginners, especially in shifting winds or fast kite movements, where the rider can get pulled into the air as the kite reverses direction.||The rider needs considerable forward speed (basically planing) and ideally a "ramp wave" to get airborne. When the wave is not large enough, the riders must initiate the jump by kicking down the tail of the board. Unintended jumps very rarely occur (unless bouncing over waves...), as jumping requires active rider input (except for off waves). Jumping requires skill and can generally only be executed by advanced riders.|
|Aerobatics||Most aerobatics and tricks (tail grab, barrel roll etc.) can be executed without the airfoil's position in the air having to change. Therefore, executing "aerobatics" is only marginally different from executing them on shore suspended by the harness from some fixed point. Beginners with a lot of caution may start attempting some basic tricks after the first few weeks or even days. This part of kiting can actually be physical.||With most aerobatics the airfoil's position in the air tends to change dramatically, very much like it does in an airplane. Each figure has its own ideal airfoil movement. With some aerobatics like the barrel roll, the rider needs to jump sufficiently high to allow the full length of the mast to rotate forward underneath. Often the risks to the rider of having fast moving and relatively heavy (board + mast + sail) gear so close by are substantial. None of this is similar to any action onshore, and therefore the learning curve is very shallow. As aerobatics are considerably more complicated than jumping, they are the done by the most experienced of riders, commanding huge respect within the sail boarding community.|
|Clearance||Clearance of at least 50 meters upwind (from any object) and 30 meters downwind (from another kitesurfer) is required. The risk of being blown into an airborne situation by a strong wind gust is real, effectively turning the kite boarder into an uncontrolled para-glider in risk of hitting any object downwind.||Since there are no kite lines, no upwind or downwind clearance is required from any object other than a kite surfer or fishing lines, which means that windsurfers do not need to worry about 'rotor' or strong wind gusts (again, not true). Also, they can emergency stop almost immediately. Experienced riders will do this by 'crashing' (with some risk to themselves) while beginning riders (who typically do not wear a harness) can depower the sail instantly by releasing the back hand or letting the mast fall on water. The risk of hitting hard objects or other water-goers is therefore minimal.|
|Learning Curve||The learning curve of kitesurfing is very different from windsurfing. At the beginning the handling the kite can be largely taught on shore, as kite boarding evolved from beach kiting. However once on the water you need to be safely guided by an instructor until you learn the basics. After you have the basics and are independent you will progress much faster than in windsurfing.
Recovery from falling is relatively easy (the kites, especially the newest models, stay normally aloft to pull the rider out of the water, with little effort) as is changing tacks, even in strong wind. Staying upwind is regarded as an advanced technique. Light wind kiting (<9 knots) is also an advanced technique: traveling much faster than the wind any mistake can lead to loss of apparent wind -> kite falls into the drink and stays there.
|The learning curve for windsurfing is gradual. As you progress through each stage of the learning process you will find it very rewarding. However the difference from kiteboarding is that you can practice safety a lot more on your own. Initially handling of the airfoil (sail) can be learned on the water or on land. Once on the water it takes lots of practice to improve.
Recovery from falling takes more effort than kiting. The rider needs to either up haul the sail standing on the board (non planing conditions) or water start (planing conditions), which both take some balance. Up hauling large sails can be a bit of work. Falling into the water is part of the overall experience (experts can go days without a fall).
|Equipment Safety||In case of material failure or accidents, normal kitesurfing equipment offers limited rescue possibilities. Kitesurfers can perform a self rescue and use their kite to sail back to shore. The last option for the rider is to abandon the kite and kiteboard and swim to shore.||Any sail board will allow the rider to keep the body sufficiently out of the water to postpone or avoid hypothermia. Smaller boards may require that the mast be detached, to avoid sinking. Thus, as a rule, a rider should never abandon the board. Windsurfing equipment is inherently safe in high winds against tea bagging or collisions due to loss of control: In case of too strong wind, the rider can depower the sail instantly by letting go with the back hand or letting the sail drop on water. Doing so (or falling) means that the board stops almost immediately as the sail will act as a floating anchor in water (except for the cases when it doesn't and sails on w/o sailor...).|
|Equipment Transport||A kite and kiteboard will fit in most vehicles. An average rider may need two to three kites and one board to ride in a wide range of wind strength.||The sail board and sail mast (even telescopic) do not fit in most vehicles, and need to be transported on a roof rack or trailer. If they do, they will often exclude passengers from the vehicle (this applies to European vehicles only...). Several different sails and boards (and often masts and booms) are necessary to cover the full range of rideable conditions.|
Sanctioned Tours (PKRA/VKWC/WKL):
Kitesurfer using helmet and impact vest for safety.
Kitesurfers use power kites hooked into harnesses
A 'Hybrid' powerkite
A 'Foil powerkite"
Kitesurfing with endangered Black sea common dolphins off Sochi
A new kitesurfer tries his first board start in the lagoon at Los Lances, Tarifa
Extreme and adventure sports
Kites and kite flying
|Types by use||
|Types by shape||
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